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Power-charging robot
A diagram from Amazon’s patent application shows a power-charging robot offering a charging cable and a stick of gum for sale. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Have you ever scrambled around at an airport, hunting down a power outlet for your laptop or smartphone? Amazon’s inventors have the answer: a power-charging robot that’ll come to your side and let you plug in, for a price.

It’ll even sell you chewing gum.

The robot is the subject of a patent published today, which is based on an application filed by a Seattle-based Amazon team back in 2015.

The idea may seem wacky, but the inventors contend that such robots would fill a need that’s currently unmet. They note that mobile devices have become ubiquitous in public and semi-public spaces:

“It can be quite inconvenient to a user when one of these devices runs out of battery power. This is especially true if the user does not have an available charging adapter for the device. Users may find themselves asking friends, or even strangers, to borrow a charging adapter. In some cases, there may not be any charging ports, or power outlets in the immediate vicinity, making charging the device even more cumbersome. Even in cases where charging stations, ports, or outlets are available, a user may have to remain close to the device. For example, charging a phone in a public place may require the user to remain in the general area of the phone to avoid theft.”

The newly published patent lays out a detailed system for a fleet of robots that can be summoned in an airport, shopping mall or other public place. You could even set up a mobile app to have a robot show up unbidden when your device’s charge drops below a certain level.

Once it’s summoned, the robot determines the user’s location and navigates its way through the crowd, using synthetic vision.

When the robot reaches a power-hungry user, it could ask him or her to watch an ad on a video screen, take a survey, participate in an activity, buy an item or pay a price for charging up. Some of the patent application’s illustrations show the robot offering a charging cable and a stick of gum as potential purchases.

Amazon power robot
The power-charging robot would be summoned via a cloud-based application when a user’s device drops below a given battery level, as shown in this diagram. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)
Amazon robot concept
The robot could look more like a shopping cart than an android. (Amazon Illustration via USPTO)

Amazon typically doesn’t comment on its patents and its applications unless it releases an actual product, and there’s no guarantee that the device-charging, ad-displaying, gum-selling robot will ever become a reality.

But at the very least, it sounds as if an engineer who was frustrated over being caught at the airport without a charger has finally done something about it. One request, Amazon: If you actually build the robot, could you please, please call it a “Power Ranger”?

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